When Hayna Gutierrez moved to Canada for a career in the ballet, the classically trained dancer was looking for a different approach to the art. Alongside choreographer Jean Grand-Maître and Canadian musician, singer and songwriter Sarah McLachlan, Gutierrez reached that goal and became one of the key dancers in Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, a show inspired by McLachlan’s music.
“I had to start breaking my body,” says Cuban-born Gutierrez. “I had to change my mind. That was my idea when I left Cuba; I had to start learning a new movement, a new style.”
She is the third of five key dancers who represent different stages in a woman’s life, from first romantic love to deep, mature love, created by a collaboration between the Lilith Fair founder and Grand-Maître, choreographer of the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Whistler Olympics
“Of course, there was pressure at the beginning, because you’re working with an important person, but she came and she was so relaxed and so natural that it helped,” Gutierrez says. “It was very easy to talk to her, to listen to her and to put into the choreography. Even if you don’t know about ballet, it doesn’t matter, as long as you understand movement and art – everything works together.”
Gutierrez’s character takes the lead on Into the Fire, one of the 16 songs in the ballet that epitomizes the themes of strength and femininity.
“As much as it’s representing her, it represents her music,” Gutierrez says. “Those songs are about the power of the woman.”
The dance is accentuated by sheer, ethereal costumes.
“It’s very free and light. Jean wanted to show the body of the woman, the feminine curves.”
Now tackling Fumbling Towards Ecstasy for the second time since her 2010-11 debut, Gutierrez has grown far more comfortable with the style and her powerful character.
“During my first season, I was a little shy. When I came from Cuba, everything was with pink ties, tutus – still covering your body – then I came here and I had to wear underwear,” she says with a laugh. “It was a little uncomfortable. Now, nothing is uncomfortable. I’m very free like (Grand-Maître) and the rest of the dancers.”
Alberta Ballet’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, as well as productions inspired by Joni Mitchell, Elton John and k.d. lang’s music have all played to sold-out audiences. Gutierrez expects the same when the company produces their second Joni Mitchell show, currently in the works.
“It’s completely different, but people really like it,” she says. “Now it’s easy. Now I’ve been with the company for four seasons and it’s in my body, so I can enjoy it more.”
Dance Victoria presents Alberta Ballet’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy Friday and Saturday Nov. 8 and 9 at the Royal Theatre (805 Broughton). Tickets start at $29 and are available at the McPherson box office and dancevictoria.com.